A group of 10 Midwest politicians are adding to the voices pleading for the Big Ten Conference to overturn its decision to postpone the fall football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A letter written by Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield was signed by nine fellow Republican state legislators — including Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau — and sent to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors.
“After hearing from many concerned students, parents and coaches, we have been encouraged to convey our support for their wishes and our responsibility to defend the students’ long-term academic and career interests,” the letter reads.
Leaders from Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania also signed the letter.
The B1G can play sports safely. And the B1G should play sports safely. They should reverse the decision. Here’s a letter that Midwest legislative leaders sent to Commissioner Warren today urging the reconsideration of the decision to cancel fall sports. Let’s go! #LetTheB1GPlay pic.twitter.com/Q89JaZwLQ6— Lee Chatfield (@LeeChatfield) September 8, 2020
The letter states that the Big Ten’s decision to push back football and other fall sports while other conferences have chosen to play has put the Big Ten and its athletes at a disadvantage, and are costing athletes future opportunities. The ACC, Big 12, and SEC are all on track to play football this fall.
“This is even more frustrating when we think of how our Big Ten athletic programs are leading the way by providing outstanding health and safety protocols,” the letter reads. “All of that unprecedented planning and teamwork was an unmitigated success, and yet somehow the conference has decided to cast it aside anyway.”
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said he hadn’t seen the letter signed by Vos and Fitzgerald, but said he supports revisiting the plan to cancel football this season.
“I always support reconsidering anything that would give us football this fall,” Steineke said.
The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted 11-3 early last month to not play football this fall, a move that has sparked anger and dissension inside the conference. President Donald Trump spoke with Warren last week about starting the football season “immediately,” but problems with rapid testing availability, COVID-19’s effects on the heart and other factors remain in the way.
The Big Ten Council bylaws state that 60% of members needed to vote to nix the fall seasons, so if a vote to restart them held the same standard, six voters would need to flip their vote. Warren released an open letter Aug. 19 stating that the decision to play fall sports “won’t be revisited.”
“The support among players, parents, coaches and fans is overwhelming,” the letter reads. “Therefore, we respectfully ask that you take their concerns to heart and work with the leadership at our universities to allow sports to continue safely this fall.”
UW-Madison has seen a rise in cases since students arrived, and Chancellor Rebecca Blank said Monday she may shut down campus if students in Madison don’t limit themselves to only essential activity. These include buying food, going to work, attending classes, getting a COVID-19 test, attending a religious observance or participating in academic activities such as conducting research or studying.
“If infections don’t fall, we will need to make more difficult decisions that significantly reduce our ability to have campus open to students,” Blank said.
Badgers fans weigh in on canceled fall season
<&rdpEm>State Journal reporter Mitchell Schmidt contributed to this report.</&rdpEm>